A FREE throw from Milton Chavis with four seconds left saw Worthing Thunder Basketball Club get their National Trophy campaign off to a winning start on Saturday.
Thunder only led briefly in the first quarter and then for the final few seconds as they beat a well-drilled Kent Crusaders outfit.
Chavis led Thunder with 21 points, Brendan Okoronkwo added 16 and Alex Barbary and Tomas Seduikis each got 11.
Chavis said: “I believed in my ability to hit that shot, it was just another free throw.
“It takes a lot of character to put a run like that together, knowing that you have been down the whole game and to win it like that is big. It wasn’t just me, the whole team stepped up. You saw the intensity and the desire to win. That’s what makes basketball so much fun.”
While Chavis hit the game-winner, Okoronkwo’s big fourth quarter performance was also a telling factor. He hit 11 of his 16 points in the last period, including game-tying free throws with 39 seconds left to set up the grandstand finish.
The visitors started strongly and had a 29-18 lead after the first quarter.
Another three by Dau Jok gave the Crusaders a 32-19 lead to start the second quarter as Thunder were struggling to put the ball in the basket. Attempts inside by Rivers and Josh Brown missed their respective marks as the visitors built the lead up.
Rivers’ night was cut short due to falling in transition and connecting with the advertising boards, resulting in a deep cut above his eye, but seven points in the second period from Chavis helped the hosts, but they still trailed 44-36 at half-time.
Worthing narrowed the gap to four points in the early stages of the third stanza, but Crusaders had an answer to everything Thunder threw at them and had a 70-57 lead with ten minutes left.
Buckets by Seduikis and Okoronkwo reduced the scoreline to single digits in the first possessions of the final quarter and with Kent’s Oisin Kerlin and Bradley Wilkinson fouling out early, there was hope for the hosts.
As the fourth quarter wore on, Worthing found their rhythm and a 11-0 run brought them to within a single point at 78-77. With 1min 04sec left, Okoronkwo tied the game from the foul line and it was left to Chavis to do the rest.
Thunder coach Daniel Hildreth said: “Credit to Kent first of all, that really needs to be said, they were aggressive, but our belief got us home.
“It was hard to match their intensity for the majority but in the fourth, we more than matched it. We knew if we could put a run together and be strong that we could get something out of this and we did.”
Thunder travel to Essex Leopards in the National Trophy on Saturday (7.30pm), before they entertain Team Solent in the National Cup on Sunday (5pm). Rivers should be fit for the weekend games.